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12 Jan 2021

Compass Housing Services strong despite challenging year

Hunter-based community housing provider, Compass Housing Services (Compass), finished the year in a strong position despite what Group Managing Director Greg Budworth describes as the most challenging year in Compass’ history.

Mr Budworth made the comments following the release of Compass’ latest annual report.

The report shows that Compass’ housing portfolio continues to grow. It added another 248 properties and increased the number of tenancies it manages by 7.5 percent. The growth was due to the expansion of its Specialist Disability Accommodation portfolio and substantial progress of the NSW Government’s Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF contract). Under SAHF, Compass is delivering 500 new properties across the Hunter and Central Coast regions. Seven of 19 projects, comprising 123 properties, have been completed with another 12 projects scheduled for completion by the end of 2021.

Tenant satisfaction remains well above the industry average at 93 per cent.

In other highlights, Compass successfully established an in-house property maintenance division - My Place Property Maintenance (MPPM). The 60 strong team will soon include apprentices drawn from its tenants, with a focus on engaging Indigenous youth.  The Compass auspiced Grow a Star youth mentoring and scholarship program assisted 80 new young people - the most in a year since the program started in 2012. A new 10-year strategic plan, aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and its operating paradigm of People, Place, Performance, Planet and Partnerships, was developed.

Mr Budworth congratulated his staff for their response to the year’s biggest challenge, in COVID-19.

As part of the COVID-19 response, Compass Tenant Engagement Officers completed 2830 COVID-19 welfare checks and developed packs to help tenants pass some time during lockdown.

“Staff were particularly cognisant of the potential for restrictions to compound the social isolation that can afflict elderly tenants and lone-person households, even under normal circumstances,” Mr Budworth said.

Prior to the pandemic, Compass staff held 129 engagement events which were attended by more than 3,000 people – an increase on the previous year despite a quarter of the year heavily impacted by COVID lockdowns.

Compass was an early mover in terms of adopting work from home arrangements. Led by its IT team, staff made the smooth transition to serving clients under new working arrangements within a week.

“With Compass having more than 180 employees, the logistics involved in effecting this change at short notice were considerable.”

“I want to thank and congratulate the entire Compass team for their strength, adaptability, and resilience through what has been, without doubt, one of the strangest, and most challenging years of our personal and professional lives.”

Mr Budworth said COVID-19 also threw the question of what it means to have “adequate” housing into sharp focus.

“Compass has long argued for adequate and affordable housing as the foundation of human wellbeing - something that has been made even more apparent by COVID-19 inspired restrictions which saw most of us spend more time at home than we were probably used to.”

Compass continued to influence the public debate on housing and the need for greater social and affordable housing. In 2019/20 it produced two research papers delving into the extent of Australia’s housing crisis. The first, Estimating Current and Future Demand for Housing Assistance, explored the extent to which official waiting list figures do not accurately capture the true level of demand for subsidised housing. The second was an updated edition of the Affordable Housing Income Gap Report which measures middle income housing stress across the country.

Mr Budworth said Compass has also positioned itself as an international NGO. It is now accredited by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and is in the process of obtaining accreditation through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

“Already we have delivered two community hubs and cyclone shelters in Vanuatu. Elsewhere in the Pacific, Compass is partnering with RMIT University to deliver an Urban Resilience Adaptation project to deliver climate change mitigation interventions.”

“Looking ahead, despite the general uncertainty created by COVID-19, the outlook for Compass is encouraging. That equates to more people from the Hunter and other parts of Australia having not only an appropriate roof over their head having a roof over their head but being engaged with their community. It also means continued jobs for local people as part of a broader contribution to the economy and community.”

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15 Dec 2020

A Garden for the Senses on the Central Coast

Compass Housing Services (Compass) has teamed up with the Royal Botanic Gardens and Cerebral Palsy Alliance to build and plant-out a wheelchair accessible sensory garden at one of its new specialist disability accommodation (SDA) properties on the Central Coast.

Residents of the new group home in Long Jetty will soon be enjoying home grown lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs. Sensory gardens allow people to connect with nature by touching, rubbing, smelling as well as eating the plants. This garden incorporates matting, stones, and wind pipes to invoke the senses of sight and sound.

The garden is funded by Compass as part of its sustainability program and is the first to be installed in a Compass property on the Central Coast.

Compass' Sustainability Manager, Jandy McCandless, said community gardens are increasingly being used in public spaces, schools, in public housing, and for people with special needs to develop a range of new skills.

Ms McCandless said community gardens are an important part of Compass’ tenant and resident engagement programs. She said in other community gardens installed in Compass’ properties, there have been positive results above and beyond the expected improvements in nutrition and social interaction.

“Community gardens can help tenants and residents to develop life skills and bring residents together,” Ms McCandless said.

Compass Group Managing Director, Greg Budworth said residents of the home used to live at Newcastle’s Stockton Centre and all use wheelchairs. The new group home is one of 65 built across the region by Home4Life, a joint venture between Compass and BlueCHP. The homes will eventually house approximately 300 people. There are five such homes on the Central Coast.

Mr Budworth said that the NSW Government has selected six Supported Independent Living (SIL) organisations to provide, highly specialised, 24-hour support at the homes. Cerebral Palsy Alliance manages this home and its staff will help residents care for and enjoy the garden.

“This is a new way of delivering modern, quality, specialist disability accommodation,” Mr Budworth said.

This garden is a small but important aspect of how we are working with the SILs to create homes for life,” he said.

Cerebral Palsy Alliance house manager Alfred Oduro said throughout COVID, resident outings were limited so we needed to be resourceful and find activities that could be done in and around the house.

“Activities such as this community garden mean that residents can find enjoyment and purpose in the safety of their home,” Mr Oduro said.

Brenden Moore from the Royal Botanic Gardens has helped Compass to create other gardens for tenants in other parts of NSW. The Royal Botanic Gardens donates Brenden’s time and bring the hardware for building gardens, the plants and trees, and the knowledge to help residents to enjoy and make the most of their garden.

Compass is a Hunter-based, Tier 1, not for profit community housing provider and an NDIS Specialist Disability Accommodation provider. It manages almost 7,000 properties in NSW and Queensland, including properties for people with disabilities. It manages 690 properties on the Central Coast.

Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) has been providing supported short and long-term accommodation for people with a range of disabilities for more than 60 years. It provides 24-hour in home care to more than 400 people living with complex physical and / or physical disabilities across more than 100 homes in Sydney, Central Coast and the Hunter.

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07 Dec 2020

Strategy Welcome but Housing is Available | Lisa Tierney

Thursday marked International Day of People with Disability. A time to celebrate the abilities of the many Australians living with a wide variety of disabilities but also a time to shine the spotlight on the issues facing people with a disability.

One issue is young people with a disability having to live in aged care facilities. Aged care is no place for young people, or for some older people with disabilities. Compass Housing was recently able to help a man, who experienced a severe stroke three years ago, to move into one of our new five-bedroom specialist disability accommodation group homes on the Central Coast.

There are still almost 5,000 people under 65 and 130 aged under 45 living in residential aged care. The reality is almost all of those people have a disability.

Our new resident’s family said that staff at the aged care facility treated him well, but he was living with older people with dementia. He is now sleeping better, eating better and has his spark back.

Like other families, they thought aged care was their only option. Younger people with disabilities are often placed in aged care from hospital or other places because of a lack of awareness of existing housing options or consultation with housing providers.

But community housing providers and specialist disability accommodation providers have vacancies in properties.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has deemed this an urgent issue. Recommendations put to it include reviewing hospital discharge protocols, and the NDIA publishing an annual Specialist Disability Accommodation National Plan setting out priority locations. The Australian Government recently announced a strategy to help keep younger people with out of residential aged care. The strategy aims to have no one under the age of 45 living in residential aged care by 2022. There is also funding for up to 40 system co-ordinators to directly help younger people who are living in or, at risk of, entering residential facilities.

The priority must be to help people to gain appropriate NDIS plans or access to NDIS support workers who can make their move to age appropriate accommodation happen. We need a central system for housing providers to be able to notify authorities about available housing.

People with a disability living in aged care and their family members need to know that there are more suitable and supportive housing options for them.  

 

Lisa Tierney is the Group Chief Operating Officer at Compass Housing Services

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30 Nov 2020

​Housing stress to rise as local rents remain solid despite pandemic

The Hunter’s private rental market has been largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic with rents across the region showing solid gains in the year to September.

Compass Housing economist, Martin Kennedy, said the local market has been remarkably resilient compared to Sydney where rents in some areas have fallen by as much as 20%.

Mr Kennedy said that data from the NSW Government Rent and Sales Report September 2020 quarter shows that, overall, rents in Newcastle are up by 3.7% compared to the same time last year. Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens have performed even better with rents up roughly 5%, while in Cessnock median rents have jumped by 7.3% over the course of the year.

“This is obviously good news for landlords, but bad news for renters, particularly those on lower incomes, who may have lost their jobs due to COVID-19,” Mr Kennedy said.

Across the Hunter region roughly 16,000 more people are out of work compared to the start of the year. The unemployment rate in Newcastle increased to 9% in September after falling to 7% the previous month but remains below the June peak of 11.1%.

Mr Kennedy said the combination of higher unemployment and rising rents was concerning.

“We know that JobKeeper and the coronavirus supplement were the only things keeping a lot of people’s heads above water,” he said.

“With those payments being phased out, and rents still rising, there is a strong chance we could see an increase in housing stress.

“That’s not just bad for the individuals and their families, it’s bad for the wider economy as well because people struggling to keep the roof over their head have less to spend on other things which hurts local businesses.” 

He said the resilience of local rents highlighted the need for greater state and federal investment in social and affordable housing.

“Even before the pandemic, approximately 40% of renters in our region were in housing stress and around 2,000 households were on the waiting list for social housing.”

“As well as the obvious social benefit, investing in more social and affordable housing is a proven job creator so it’s a genuine win-win.”

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24 Nov 2020

Compass wins four 2020 Australian Business Awards

Compass Housing Services has taken out four ABA100 2020 Australian Business Awards. The awards were for:

  • Employer of Choice
  • Training Excellence
  • Community Contribution
  • Sustainability

The Sustainability Award was a first for Compass. It took out awards in the other categories in 2019.

These awards are on the back of Compass being a finalist in two categories in the 2020 Hunter Business Awards for sustainability and contribution to the region.

Group Managing Director Greg Budworth said the accolades are a credit to Compass staff.  

“We strive to be a workplace where people can develop their skills and be successful so that they can better provide our tenants with affordable housing and support services,” Mr Budworth said.

“We have invested in new training systems and have focussed on building future leadership capability,” he said.

Having all people living in appropriate and affordable shelter and engaged in sustainable communities is Compass Housing’s business vision.

Mr Budworth said Compass has a long-standing commitment to social, environmental and economic sustainability and strongly believes real success in any of these can only be achieved when all three are addressed.

“We have aligned our business plans to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and our goal is to be carbon neutral by 2030.”

“Our sustainability programs are managed by our Sustainability Manager and they involve management. staff, and tenants.”

Compass has Gold Status in the NSW Government's Sustainability Advantage program. It was also the first NGO in the Hunter region to sign up to the Plastics Police soft plastic recycling program which encourages recycling of plastic for reuse as plastic furniture.

The annual Australian Business Awards program recognises organisations that demonstrate the core values of business innovation, product innovation, technological achievement and employee engagement via a comprehensive range of award categories.

The Award for Community Contribution recognises organisations that implement initiatives that have a positive impact on the community and generate outcomes that have a long term benefit. Those organisations awarded Employer of Choice have developed leading workplaces that maximise the full potential of their workforce through practices that demonstrate effective employee recruitment, engagement and retention. The Award for Training Excellence recognises organisations that have achieved outstanding results through initiatives that demonstrate excellence in workplace training and development. The Sustainability Award recognises organisations that have achieved outstanding results through initiatives that demonstrate excellence in human resource management.

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